Welcome to the No Fire Zone Blog which we will be updating with news and events on a regular basis so please keep coming back for updates
Channel 4 News broadcast shocking new footage showing Tamil Tiger Newscaster, actress and singer Isaipriya. The Sri Lankan government had always claimed that Isaipriya was killed in combat. However this new footage shows that to be a lie. In this shocking footage it shows Isaipriya at the point of her capture. She is alive and apparently uninjured. The Sri Lankan government must explain why how she came to have been sexually assaulted and executed whilst in their custody. Watch the news item here http://www.channel4.com/news/fate-of-tamil-actress-chilling-new-evidence-from-sri-lanka
The Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival held earlier this month gave its audience award to No FIRE ZONE: THE KILLING FIELDS OF SRI LANKA
Following the Sri Lankan governments attempts to stop the screening of No Fire Zone and two other films from Sri Lanka interest in the films has grown significantly.
A review of the film in the Nepali Times described it as “Brilliantly put together..journalistically sound..an absolute must see” (read the full review)
As a result of the Sri Lankan government's attempts to stop the screening the organisers held TWO screenings - both to packed houses. Thanks to Film SouthAsia for their refusal to accept this attempt at censorship. And thanks to the people of Nepal who attended the screenings in defiance. The truth will out.
Once again the government of Sri Lanka has tried to prevent an international screening of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, this time in Nepal. Once again they have failed because of the determination of defenders of human rights and free speech.
Yesterday the Nepali authorities gave the organisers of the Film Southasia festival just 24 hours notice that they must not show No Fire Zone and two other Sri Lankan films in their festival as planned.
Film Southasia issued an immediate statement: “We announce with great regret that the Sri Lankan Government has pressurised the Nepali authorities to stop the screening of all three documentaries from Sri Lanka selected for the Film Southasia ’13 festival.” They described the attempted ban as “an action that goes against the freedom of expression and the right of documentary filmmakers to exhibit their work.” The other two films were shorts by the respected Sri Lankan/British documentary maker and photographer Kannan Arunasalam.
Despite this attempt to ban the films the organisers have announced that No Fire Zone will now be screened at a private venue, at Yala Maya Kendra, Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sat 5 Oct 6:30pm
No Fire Zone is a devastating indictment of the Sri Lankan government's role in the massacres at the end of the Sri Lankan war. The culmination of a three year long investigation, it contains a mass of carefully authenticated evidence – including video, photographic and eyewitness accounts – of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the last few months of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009.
It describes, in harrowing detail, how in January 2009, the government of Sri Lanka encouraged thousands of Tamil civilians to gather in series of what they called "No fire zones" - and then subjected them to deliberate, sustained shelling. They compounded this by deliberately denying adequate supplies of food and medicine into the area. No-one knows how many died, but one UN report suggested it could have been as many as 40,000. A later Un report suggested the total could have reached 70,000 or even more. No Fire Zone also examines the role of the Tigers in the tragedy revealing how the agony of the trapped Tamil civilians was further compounded by the Tigers who refused to let those who wanted to leave the zones from doing so - even, on occasion, shooting at those who tried.
This new attempt to ban No Fire Zone follows a similar move in Malaysia where a screening of the film was raided by between 30 and 40 members of the Malaysian Censorship Board and police officers – again on the instigation of the Sri Lankan Government. However they did not succeed in preventing the screening.Last month Lena Hendry of Malaysian Human Rights organisation Pusat Komas appeared in court and was charged for organizing the screening. She faces a maximum of three years in jail if convicted.
In protest over the attempts to silence the film another Malaysian organization Lawyers for Liberty, screened the film again. Yet more screenings are now planned.
Following attempts to stop the Nepalese screening No Fire Zone, the film’s Director, Callum Macrae, issued the following statement.
"Once again the Sri Lankan government has shown its true colours. While telling the world that it is investigating the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity – it is in practice mounting an international campaign to deny the truth and silence the witnesses. Film South Asia deserves every credit for refusing to stop the screenings, instead moving them to another venue.
“The Sri Lankan regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers is determined to suppress the evidence of these crimes and their responsibility for them. That is why the Sri Lankan government wants to stop the world seeing our film. From the UN to the European parliament, from Malaysia to Nepal they have tried to stop the screenings. I am glad to say they have never succeeded.
“In Sri Lanka itself they are desperately trying to silence any critics. Military repression of the Tamils in the north of the country is ongoing. The Tamil homelands are being ethnically re-engineered by plantation of majority Sinhala families and soldiers. Land grabs are rampant. In the south anyone who speaks out against the regime is silenced. The independence of the judiciary is under attack. Journalists are being threatened and intimidated. Government supporters are now turning on other ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka – in particular, they are targeting Muslims.
In November the leaders of the Commonwealth will gather in Sri Lanka for the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
If those leaders want the Commonwealth to retain any credibility, they must not turn a blind eye to the crimes of their hosts – or their attempts to deny the truth and silence their critics.
For our part we pledge that we will continue to take this film around the world – and we will continue to tell the truth about what happened. "
No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka is a shocking feature documentary exposing some of the worst war crimes of the 21st century. The feature-length documentary tells the story of the last 138 days of the Sri Lankan civil war. It represents the culmination of three years of journalistic investigation which began with Channel 4 News’s exposure of atrocities committed by government forces at the end of the war. The film also addresses the culpability of the Tamil Tigers, themselves responsible for committing war crimes and for preventing civilians from trying to escape the carnage.
Since 2009 there has been no independent judicial investigation into what happened and the Government of Sri Lanka continues to say the video evidence of war crimes is faked. A UN Panel of Experts reported to Ban Ki Moon that as many as 40,000 civilians may have died during the first few months of 2009 – mostly as a result of government shelling. A more recent internal UN review concluded the figure could be higher - 70,000 or even more.
No Fire Zone also brings this story up to date. This is still a live story – the brutal repression and ethnic restructuring of the Tamil homelands in the north of Sri Lanka continues – journalists and government critics are still disappearing.
When you announce that you are going to apply for media accreditation for a routine international political event like the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) you don’t normally expect a rash of death threats – or to find a senior diplomat from the host country threatening on twitter that he will “make sure you don’t get a visa”.
But this year’s CHOGM is no ordinary event. It is being held in Sri Lanka - whose government is accused of some of the worst war crimes of this century. A country marked today by increasing repression of its Tamil minority and a brutal clamp-down on any government critics, particularly among the press and the judiciary.
When David Cameron controversially announced that he would be attending CHOGM despite calls for a boycott, Alistair Burt, the foreign minister with responsibility for Sri Lanka, went on record to say: "We will make it clear to the Sri Lanka Government that we expect them to guarantee full and unrestricted access for international press covering CHOGM”
The omens for that “guarantee” do not look good. Read the full story in the Press Gazette
The Sri Lankan government still denies responsibility for the killing of up to 70,000 Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009. So why has it been chosen to host a Commonwealth summit asks Callum Macrae, director of a harrowing film about the massacre. From the Guardian Sept 2013
I have spent the best part of the last three years looking at some of the most terrible images I could have imagined. I've covered wars and seen some awful things, but few that could prepare me for the hours of video and mobile footage that emerged from the last 138 days of Sri Lanka's bloody civil war between the government and the Tamil Tiger secessionists; a war that ended four years ago – and whose bloody denouement is the subject of my film No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.
The film records what happened when the government of Sri Lanka told some 400,000 civilians to gather in what they described as "no fire zones" – and then subjected them to merciless, sustained shelling. We humans are good at reducing terrible massacres to statistics. We instinctively distance ourselves from the lost humanity represented by heaps of corpses or rows of dead bodies. But it is more difficult to avoid the anguish of those who survive... full article here
I write to you about a matter of urgent concern relating to recent events in Malaysia resulting from a screening of my feature documentary, No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.
This film is the latest in a series of award-winning films made by my team and I which examine the evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides in the final months of the war in Sri Lanka. Our films on this distressing subject have won many awards internationally. They have been cited by the UN as having played a significant role in bringing these crimes to the attention of national missions to the UN and we were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result.
A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Malaysia as part of a tour which has involved public and parliamentary screenings in a number of countries, including, most recently, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. As you may know the film first premiered in front of 200 diplomats and country delegations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March and future screenings are scheduled for a large number of counties including Argentina and India.
In Kuala Lumpur recently I attended a screening in front of a significant number of MPs in the Parliamentary building. The MPs had a very good discussion and resolved to continue to raise this very important matter both in Malaysia and in other international forums. But the events which took place that evening at a private screening in the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall came as a considerable shock to me and remain a matter of the highest concern to us.
Halfway through the screening I was astonished to be told that a large number – perhaps 30 or even 40 police and members of the government’s Censorship Board had arrived and were suggesting that the screening should be stopped. I have never experienced anything like it in any of the many countries, parliaments and international forums at which my films have been shown. I am aware that in countries around the world Sri Lankan Embassies and High Commissions have always attempted to persuade local organisers, including national parliaments, the UN, the European parliament and others to stop screening of the film. I am also reassured that in not one case has any of these governments or international assemblies agreed to do so. The principle of free speech would not allow then to succumb to such pressure. I have never known any government or other authority to do the apparent bidding of the Sri Lankan government in such a way as certainly appears to have happened in Malaysia.
What has always happened – as it also did in this case – is that the organisers invite the Sri Lankan embassy officials to attend the screening and put their point of view to the meeting. The fact that they did not turn up in response to the invitation in Malaysia is not the fault of the organisers I was even more shocked to hear that three of the organisers, from the NGO Pusat Komas, Ms. Anna Har, a member of KOMAS Board of Director, Mr. Arul Prakkash, KOMAS Executive Director, and Ms. Lena Hendry, KOMAS Programme Officer, had apparently been taken into custody for questioning and were then arrested. This appears to be a very clear breach of the Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
But now the news that the Komas Director Tan Jo Hann has also been asked to present himself to the Authorities – which he will be doing on the 22nd of July, is another cause for serious concern.
Can I register in the strongest terms my concern over these unwarranted measures to interfere with these honourable Human Rights defenders as the carry out their legitimate activities – activities protected under international law. Can I also ask that you urgently raise these concerns with the authorities in Malaysia as this kind of arbitrary and unwarranted interference with citizens acting entirely lawfully can only cause damage to the international reputation of Malaysia.
I trust that all proceedings against these individuals will be dropped as a matter of urgency and look forward to your response.